Saved was released June 23, 1980 and was the second of Bob Dylan’s trilogy of hard core, fundamentalist Christian releases. It did not have the commercial success of Slow Train Coming and would be his first album in 15 years not to earn gold record status.
The major issue for Saved was that it was recorded between tours and as such was a hasty affair. There is less imagination and invention than either of his other two Christian releases which is probably due to the time constraints. The uncompromising nature of the lyrics and message are thus more exposed. On the positive side, Dylan is enthusiastic and committed. This was his twentieth studio album and while it may rank in the bottom 25%, it is not a terrible album, but rather an average release by Dylan standards.
“Pressing On” and “Solid Rock” are about spiritual correctness. The first is the better of the two with its almost blues/gospel vocal. “Saved” may have difficult lyrics but the instrumental backing is the best on the album. Piano player deluxe, Spooner Oldham was an excellent choice as he provides many of the albums highlights.
The final three songs plod along here and there but they form the core theological statement of this release. "Saving Grace" and "In The Garden" are the set up for the grand finale. "Are You Ready?" and its depiction of the reality of heaven and hell is presented in a harsh and confronting manner. Even an underlying mystical quality cannot soften this unrelenting message. Interestingly Dylan was performing mostly his Christian songs in concert at this time and these three are a good representation of that concert experience.
I think that the average nature of the album makes it a difficult review. I do not doubt that Dylan is following his heart here but there is a real lack of subtlety. Maybe even Dylan would recognize the deficiencies of Saved as his next album, Shot Of Love, would present essentially the same message but with a dose of humility and humaneness.
Saved remains a difficult stop in the career of Bob Dylan. There are so many superior releases in his catalogue that this is not an album that I play very often, if at all.